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On Assignment: New Orleans

The sprawling main house is the nucleus of a magic universe which counts a cottage, a music studio, an ample porch and a variety of fig, lemon and willow trees as satellites. Here, in a home away from home, I completed deadlines, rejuvenated, and savored a slice of everyday life in New Orleans.
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I felt overwhelmed.

Not only by the weight of my looming assignment - but by the many tools I'd gathered to meet them: glistening vials of rare perfumes, flower infused soaps and candles, jars of jiggling hydrating masks, soothing ionic body sprays. Each, I carefully wrapped before tucking away in the first bag. If perfumes and potions seem unorthodox tools for a journalist - it's because they are. But over a decade of assignments from L.A to London to Lagos, had taught me that my articles cannot live by pen alone. When airports, cafes and hotels are your office, you seek comfort and stability in familiar things. Over time the treasures in my suitcase found their way into my mobile workspace, creating a calm environment for me - mind, body and soul.

This is why clothing too was thoughtfully selected. After all, the process of shadowing, interviewing and recording a subject can be a sport in itself. And my production schedule - spanning nearly three weeks of reporting on people and places - suggested a marathon. Walking shoes, comfortable pants, and breathable tops were deftly stacked in the second bag. For the last - a slim metal briefcase - I reserved my most traditional of tools: leather bound notebooks, handcrafted fountain pens and Apple's iPhone 6.

Released last September, this versatile gadget features an enhanced iOS8 operating system which allows seamless integration between the phone and all my Apple devices. Notes taken on the iPhone 6 can be accessed and edited into an article on my laptop and reviewed on my iPad. The camera - which was used to take all photos for my features - boasted impeccable video quality with iSight Focus Pixels and Retina HD display. The result? A one-stop shop where recording, writing and editing can happen on the go. Slipping the phone in my briefcase officially marked the beginning of my assignment.

I was ready for New Orleans.

Hours later, I touched down in a city in the throes of activity. From music festivals to business conferences, "NOLA's" summer line-up had the city in a frenzy. But if you stayed still long enough you'd realize the mirth had a morose rival: Hurricane Katrina. With the tenth anniversary of the natural disaster looming - so too were vivid memories of the tragedy. They seemed to fuel countless heated debates and friendly conversations in the papers, on the radio, and in daily life.

Yet no matter how polarizing the dialogue, a unifying magic remained.

I experienced it in depth at a private retreat, minutes away from the center of town. A collaboration between a community arts space and local non-profit, the retreat is housed on the grounds of a private residence. The sprawling main house is the nucleus of a magic universe which counts a cottage, a music studio, an ample porch and a variety of fig, lemon and willow trees as satellites. Here, in a home away from home, I completed deadlines, rejuvenated, and savored a slice of everyday life in New Orleans.

The peace had a profound effect on a journalist packing for the journey home. This time, I was far from overwhelmed...I was overjoyed. Unorthodox and cumbersome, though they may be - the tools of my trade - once again - proved a constant comfort for a nomadic writer.

Discover them below.

iPad Air 2 by Apple
iPad Air 2 / by Apple / Available at Apple

Also Pictured:
Classic Pocket Notebook / Moleksine / Available at Moleskine

Chicken Foot Letter Opener and Feather Pen / D.L. & Co / Available at D.L & Co

Tortoise Frame Sun Spectacles / Buy Blay / Special order: blog@zandileblay.com
Kensington Watch by Nixon
Kensington Watch / Nixon / Available at Nixon

Also Pictured:
White Leather Camisole / Vince / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Leather Trousers / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com
Orchid Sunglasses by Fendi
Orchid Cat-Eye Sunglasses / Fendi / Availabe at Fendi

Also Pictured:
Lightweight Knit Cardigan / Ginger G / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Floral Print Camisole / Vintage
Magazine Street by Strange Invisible
Magazine Street / Strange Invisible / Available at Strange Invisible Perfumes

Also Pictured:
Notebook XS / Moleskine / Available at Moleskine

Kensington Watch / Nixon / Available at Nixon

Tortoise Frame Sun Spectacles / Buy Blay / Special order: blog@zandileblay.com
Peel, Hydrate & Cleanse by Skin Inc
From Left to Right:
Pure Revival Peel, Pure Deepsea Hydrating Mask, Pure Prodew Cleansing Foam / All by Skin Inc / All available at Sephora
Launch 2 Sneakers by Brooks Running
Launch 2 Running Sneakers / Brooks Running / Available at Brooks Running
Mesh Safari Hat by Dorfman Pacific Co.
Mesh Safari Hat / Dorfman Pacific Co / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores
Feu De Bois Candle by Diptyque
Feu De Bois Candle / Diptyque / Available at Diptyque Paris
Avery Perfumes
Select Fragrances / Avery Perfume Gallery /Avery Perfume Gallery New Orleans
Sage & Rose Body Wash by Strange Invisible
Sage & Rose Body Wash / Strange Invisible / Available at Strange Invisible Perfumes
Gray Cotton Shirt by Theory
Gray Cotton Shirt / Theory / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Also Pictured:
Yellow Tinted Dual Lens Opticals / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com

Leather Trousers / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com

Black Patent Leather 'Arizona' Flats / Birkenstock / Available at Birkenstock USA
Custom Blended Serum by Skin Inc.
My Daily Dose Custom-Blended Serum / Skin Inc. / Available at Sephora

Also Pictured:
Dior Addict Lip Gloss / Dior / Available at Dior

Eye Contour Serum / Immunocologie / Available at Immunocologie
The Shirtdress with Double-Layer Hem by Rag & Bone
The Shirtdress with Double Layer Hem / Rag & Bone / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Also Pictured:
Orchid Cat-Eye Sunglasses / Fendi / Availabe at Fendi

Gold Palazzo Pants / H&M / Available at Select H&M Stores
Black Amber & Jasmin Candle by Natori
Black Amber & Jasmin Candle / Natori / Available at Natori
Vital Ionic Mist by Immunocologie
Vital Ionic Mist / Immunocologie/ Available at Vital Ionic Mist, $65, Immunocologie

Also Pictured:
Denim Shirt / H&M / Available at H&M Stores

Denim Shorts / Free People / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Straw Hat / Vintage
Hourglass Diffuser by Diptyque
Hourglass Diffuser / Diptyque / Available at Diptyque Paris
Erina Deluxe Metallic Tank by Zadig & Voltaire
Erina Deluxe Metallic Tank / Zadig & Voltaire / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Also Pictured:
Lightweight Knit Cardigan / Ginger G / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Leather Trousers / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com

Black Patent Leather 'Arizona' Flats / Birkenstock / Available at Birkenstock USA

Glow-in-the-dark Rosary / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com

Tortoise Frame Sun Spectacles / Buy Blay / Special order: blog@zandileblay.com

iPhone 6 / Apple / Available at Apple
iPhone 6 by Apple
iPhone 6 / Apple / Available at Apple

Also Pictured:
Glow-in-the-dark Rosary / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com

Black Split-Side Tunic / Jolie / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Black Patent Leather 'Arizona' Flats / Birkenstock / Available at Birkenstock USA
Arizona Sandals by Birkenstock
Black Patent Leather 'Arizona' Flats / Birkenstock / Available at Birkenstock USA

Also Pictured:
Denim Shirt / Cloth & Stone / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Denim Shorts / Free People / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Mr. Matthew Varvil & Special Guests at the Monthly 'Cajun Brunch' at Tigermen Den in New Orleans
L'invisible by Strange Invisible
L’invisible / Strange Invisible / Available at Strange Invisible Perfumes

Also Pictured:
Feu De Bois Candle / Diptyque / Available at Diptyque Paris

Eye Contour Serum / Immunocologie / Available at Immunocologie
CLEANSE by LAUREN NAPIER
CLEANSE by LAUREN NAPIER Facial Wipes / Lauren Napier / Available at Lauren Napier

Also Pictured:
Silk Teddy / Vintage
Mini Sound Blaster by Vans x Nixon
Mini Sound Blaster / Vans x Nixon / Available at Nixon

Also Pictured:
Orchid Cat-Eye Sunglasses / Fendi / Availabe at Fendi

Blush Cotton Blouse / H&M / Available at Select H&M Stores

Gold Palazzo Pants / H&M / Available at Select H&M Stores
Matte Multi-Wheel Suitcase by Rimowa
Black Matte Salsa Multi-Wheel / Rimowa / Available at Rimowa

Also Pictured:
iPhone 6 / Apple / Available at Apple

Galassia Floral Print Detail Glasses / Fendi / Available at Fendi

Denim Shirt / Cloth & Stone / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Leather Trousers / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com

Leather Tote / Vintage
Galassia Floral Print Glasses by Fendi
Galassia Floral Print Detail Glasses / Fendi / Available at Fendi

Also Pictured:
Denim Shirt / Cloth & Stone / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Catholic Saints Index Ring / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com

Glow-in-the-dark Rosary / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com
Asymmetrical Sweatshirt by H&M
Asymmetrical Zipfront Sweatshirt / H&M / Available at H&M Stores

Also Pictured:
Black T-Shirt Dress with Dual Splits / H&M / Available at H&M Stores

Tortoise Frame Sun Spectacles / Buy Blay / Special order: blog@zandileblay.com

Black Patent Leather 'Arizona' Flats / Birkenstock / Available at Birkenstock USA

Glow-in-the-dark Rosary / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com
Skyscape Harmony Walking Shoes by Reebok
Skyscape Harmony Walking Shoes / Reebok / Available at Reebok

Also Pictured:
Leather Trousers / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com
Essence of IX by Strange Invisible
Essence of IX / Strange Invisible / Available at Strange Invisible Perfumes
Sleeveless Tunic by Jolie
Black Split-Side Tunic / Jolie / Available at Select TJ Maxx Stores

Also Pictured:
Glow-in-the-dark Rosary / Buy Blay / Special Order: blog@zandileblay.com

Kensington Watch / Nixon / Available at Nixon

Black Patent Leather 'Arizona' Flats / Birkenstock / Available at Birkenstock USA

The dynamic young students of the Kingsland Baptist Church Youth Ministry (Katy, Texas)

All Images Shot Entirely On The iPhone 6 / Courtesy of Apple

Photography: Grimmond Groupe

Very Special Thanks to:
Mr. Randal Jacobs, Ms. Leesaw Andaloro, Mr. Matthew Dylan Varvil, 2Sisters Kitchen

Learn more about the Tigermen Den (TMD) Artist Retreat & Residency Program, in conjunction with Black Forest Fancies (BFF) here.